Dinner out with the ultimate ‘Queer Eye’ guy
Forget E.F. Hutton. In today's image-obsessed world, it's when Carson Kressley speaks that people listen. Boy do they listen. And woe to the mere mortal who deigns to steal the spotlight in the normal ebb-and-flow of a dinner conversation. Waving his hands and directing both index fingers toward himself, Carson commands, "OK people, back to me! Over here!"
At a dinner for 12, mostly regional and marketing veeps and VIPs of General Growth Properties, owners of Ala Moana Center, a couple of Kressley's friends and this reporter, Carson kept his audience at Neiman Marcus's Mariposa restaurant rapt last Friday night. He could have easily called it a one-man show and charged admission, for all his comic chatter.
Earlier, he'd sent all at a private Fendi party on their merry ways with big smiles because America's most famous queer-eyed guy is just as funny and animated in person as he is on TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," although he's less fussy than one might imagine. He's not wedded to any skin-care product in tending to his baby-soft face, for example, although he does know well enough to moisturize, saying, "I basted myself like a turkey on the way over here."
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At a private party Nov. 3 at Emporio Armani, Carson Kressley signed copies of a story about him, pictured at home in a tub filled with Mr. Bubble, in November's InStyle magazine. He also signed a few pictures of Celine Dion.
If he was tired after flying in from Australia for a round of parties Nov. 3 at Louis Vuitton and Emporio Armani, and again on the fourth, it didn't show as he enthusiastically discussed his adventures with:
Ghosts in Australia: "I was staying at this really nice hotel (Stamford Plaza Double Bay). Then somebody told me that was where (INXS singer) Michael Hutchence committed suicide, and it was in the room right next to mine, so every time I had to pass by I'd get really scared. Then I was convinced my room was haunted. I'd be under the blankets going, 'Princess Diana, is that you?' "
Murky water in Puerto Rico: "As a rule I don't go into murky water, but I was there with friends and everybody jumped in so I had to jump in, and I was splashing around and really enjoying myself. Then I kicked something hard and I was like, 'Eek!,' and I swam and swam (makes frantic doggie paddle gestures) and jumped back on the boat, and scratched my whole chest. I never found out what it was. It might have been a manatee."
Touching celebs the wrong way: "I was on the set of 'The Perfect Man,' playing a bartender, Lance, and on the first day of filming, I reached across the bar and touched Chris Noth on the chin, like this (makes a gentle cupping motion) and he got up and walked off, and everyone was running around and they said, 'That's it!' And I thought, 'Great! We got it in one take.' What they meant was we were done for the day. He just walked off the set because nobody's supposed to touch him on the chin. And I went back to my room and cried and cried. I thought I was gonna be fired. But it was OK, and we became friends after that. ... (The film's) playing on Continental now. I like that. A captive audience."
A Jacuzzi tub mishap: He filled a hotel tub with hot water and tea for a soak, leaving a vivid yellow stain. He tried to repair the damage overnight with bleach, and it worked, but worry lost him a night of sleep.
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Every girl loves a cute, funny, smart and sharp-dressed man. Too bad he's gay, but girls, you know you'd just be competing for Cavalli jeans and Tod's shoes.
FOR ALL HIS flamboyance, Kressley's a timid diner, or maybe locals tend to be immune to weirdness because of our chop-suey upbringing. On presentation of an appetizer platter of shrimp, crab cakes and oxtails, he picked at a few shrimp while rolling the word "pupu" around his tongue, and exhibiting some queasiness over the oxtails.
"Try it. It's delicious!" I encouraged, but he declined, saying, "Oxtails. It just sounds a little bit icky."
If oxtails weren't challenging enough, the offering of veal cheeks on the menu gave him plenty of ammo for toying with Mariposa's general manager Ryan Crowell.
"Which cheeks are they?" Kressley asked innocently, to much laughter. "It's a fair question!"
Even though a portion was ordered for his sampling, he wouldn't try that either, opting for something more familiar.
"Can you believe it? I traveled 5,000 miles away from home just to order New York Steak."
IF MEDIA success came quickly for Kressley, it's because he's a natural, both warm and witty, with the ability to put people at ease. This year, he won a hosting spot on the red carpet during the Emmy Awards.
"The celebrities I've met have all been really nice, but Jamie Lee Curtis was really mean to me. (Gasps, aws, and oh nos rise from fellow diners.) She had on this beautiful necklace and I said I really liked it, but she just said, 'I'll bet you do,' and she threw this piece of paper at me with a list of what she was wearing."
But no slight can rain on his parade, as he continues to spread his message of beauty and acceptance, most recently through his children's book, "You're Different and That's Super" (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $12.95).
"It's about a horse named Trumpet, and he's got this lump on the middle of his forehead, and all the other horses laugh at him, so he's always trying to cover it up with his hair going this way and that way. But the lump keeps getting bigger, and of course he's a unicorn but no one knows that. In the end he saves the day and everybody loves him," Kressley said.
It's natural that the book would involve horses in some way because in addition to his fashion cred, as a former stylist for Polo Ralph Lauren and author of "Off the Cuff: The Essential Style Guide for Men -- and the Women Who Love Them," Kressley is also a nationally ranked equestrian and former member of the U.S. World Cup Equestrian Team. Although he's lived in New York for 14 years, he continues to breed horses in Kentucky.
He's hoping Trumpet's message will reach teenagers.
"Growing up and feeling different is hard for anyone and gay teenagers are the most likely to commit suicide," he said, giving him reason to continue trying to bridge the gap between people of different genders, cultures and sexual orientation. He's an active supporter of human rights, AIDS prevention and gay and lesbian groups, and on Nov. 17 he'll appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," talking about "when I knew I was gay."
Of course, in Carson's world, the mood doesn't stay serious for long, and he left us with more wisdom:
For authors: Visit book stores and offer to sign a couple of your books because they'll give autographed copies more prominent placement.
Regifting for the holidays: "Don't do it, but if you do and get caught, 'fess up immediately," he said, as he did when he had no time to shop and handed a friend a box of products he'd just received from Kiehl's. Inside was a card addressed to him.
"I just said, 'You got me; I'm busted.' But it was a really nice gift! If only I'd bought it!"
He skipped dessert, which might explain his compact waistline. And the restaurant offered all a small gift of lilikoi-flavored tea as we left, prompting warnings to Kressley to keep away from bathtubs.